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'Dances With Turkeys' a wildlife resource

By Wade Hutcheson
University of Georgia

I danced with turkeys a while back.

I wasn't dreaming, and I'm not a turkey hunter, though at some point I'd like to give it a try. I was visiting with a property owner, discussing his pastures, and we were pleased to watch two young male turkeys on the back side of the pasture.

They must have been pleased to see us, too, as they and then a third came out to greet us. They came right up to within about 30 yards of the truck. That's unusual, as turkeys aren't normally social with people.

These young turkeys, though, walked up to the truck and stood there gobbling at us. They even followed the truck as we tried to ease off. I tried to turn the truck around so the landowner could see them, and they followed us in circles.

'Dances With Turkeys'

This went on for more than 5 minutes. We eventually got out of the truck and danced with them. They inspected us and decided we weren't worth the trouble and left.

It was an amazing wildlife experience. I had a camera, but it was such a shock and we were laughing so hard I never thought to get photographic proof.

I've told this story to several people, most of whom didn't believe me. You know county agents have been known to stretch the truth a tad.

Looking for handout?

The only thing I can figure out that makes sense is that someone managed to imprint on these birds, and they got used to people and were looking for a handout. Perhaps a sage turkey expert can offer another explanation.

If the game warden is reading this, no harm came to the turkeys, though we were tempted.

I visited with some science teachers last week. Their story was about a hawk that had twice, on consecutive days, had its breakfast within view of their classroom. The reaction from the students ranged from utter amazement to being totally grossed out. But what a teachable moment!

Wildlife surrounds us

Wildlife surrounds us, even in town. I consider that a good thing. It offers us enjoyment and, to many, improves the quality of life when you can witness wildlife up close.

Having wildlife nearby can provide quality family time and opportunities to teach conservation and the realities of nature.

At other times, it's a frustration, as deer, squirrels, skunks, racoons and others cause problems in landscapes, roadways and other places. Ask my wife about the 'possum in the dog-food bag -- a handful of fur she'll never forget.

Which do you want?

Which do you want, more or less wildlife? Your county office of the University of Georgia Extension Service can offer help in attracting more wildlife to the backyard or advise you on things you can do to deter it.

We can help you be a better manager of your fish pond, suggest wildlife plantings and tell you which landscape plants are resistant to deer.

If we have time, I might even show you my turkey dance.

(Wade Hutcheson is a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent serving Spalding, Henry and Newton counties.)

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